Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Summer Report 2008

The summer of 2008 began with the announcement that Brian Rogers would be our interim chancellor. He moved quickly to set up transition teams on the following topics: administrative services, athletics, child care, community economic development, community engagement, enrollment management, facilities, faculty/curriculum, information technology, KUAC, philanthropy, research administration, student services and sustainability. While there was not a staff transition team, I believe that Chancellor Rogers knows and appreciates staff’s role within the university. He included staff in all of the teams and the steering committee. Chancellor Rogers has already met with our administrative committee and he readily credits that committee with inspiring him to initiate the creation and implementation of a supervisory training program at UAF.

I was appointed to serve on the Administrative Services transition team and thought it a very educational and worthwhile opportunity. We met several times and interviewed many department heads and staff to put together our report. I interviewed the UAF HR manager, director of GI HR, an HR staff person, John Duhamel, now acting director of UAF HR, and Jim Johnson, then vice president of UA Administration for the HR component of the report. A strong recommendation that came from the team was the need for decisions on the HR redesign and within the HR department.

At the first meeting of the Transition Overall Steering Committee, I expressed my concerns about there not being a team dedicated to staff issues. Chancellor Rogers recognized my concerns but felt the biggest concerns of staff were systemwide issues i.e., staff compensation and health-care costs. And he expressed a willingness to discuss campus issues with me.

The Supervisory Training Program Group made up of Earlina Bowden, Brad Lobland, Jennifer Youngberg and myself, was created at the chancellor’s request to put together a proposal for a supervisory training program. We began meeting in June and working closely with the chancellor created the program announced at the convocation. At the end of this first semester, we will meet again with the trainers, review user surveys and adapt the topics and program if necessary. This program is intended to be university-specific and encourages staff to use SkillSoft for related foundational courses. You should know that the funding for SkillSoft beyond January 2009 is uncertain.

The Chancellor's Campus Diversity Action Committee met in August. Ginny and Katrina are Staff Council's representatives on that committee and I am the GCC's representative there. I agreed to stay on as co-chair of the committee with Jane Weber the Faculty Senate rep. We've got a great start on our action plan for this year which includes items like a diversity website, mediation program and reviewing the bylaws.

The Bunnell House Advisory Group did not meet over the summer but some of its membership participated in the Child Care transition team. The transition team did recommend a child care task force be created. At our pre-staff meeting with the chancellor I asked about the status of this. He indicated that he will be creating a Family Friend Task Force whose first order of business will be to work on the child care issue. The Bunnell House group’s first meeting is the end of this month. I would like to step down from this external committee if there was another council rep willing to serve.

As president of Staff Council, I was appointed to the Staff Compensation Task Force. You may recall last spring the legislature chose not to fund our step increases. President Hamilton moved quickly to add them to our cost-of-living increase which the Legislature did support. UA staff received a 4.5% adjustment to the grid for FY09. Statewide then decided to create a task force to make a recommendation on how compensation (or step increases) would be handled in the future. The membership of this task force is as follows:

From governance: Megan Carlson, Juella Sparks, Gwenna Richardson, Jason Davis, Janet Daley and Linda Lasota
From HR: James Yauney, Brad Lobland (John Duhamel), Kirk McAllister
From statewide: Jeannine Senechal, Julie Larweth

The FY10 UA budget goes before the regents next week and as I understand it, is pretty much set in stone. At the first task force meeting in July, we were told that there was a 4.5% placeholder in the FY10 budget. At our September 12 meeting I strongly suggested the task force simply ask for a 5% increase not only because that is the amount of the Anchorage Consumer Price Index but also as a show of support for staff and recognizing the economic hardships we are facing. Ultimately the recommendation for FY10 was that the actual request for a grid increase be somewhere between 4.6 and 5% depending on the amounts in negotiated contracts and the Anchorage Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Statewide has stated that we cannot continue to rely on grid increases. And it is important to note that these grid increases are not covering both the increase in cost of living and our traditional step increases. So for FY11 we are looking to develop a compensation system based on the following central values (this list isn’t final): market-based, allows step progression, cost neutral (as much as possible), increased performance management (with an infrastructure in place to support it) and efficient to administer. I have encouraged the task force to keep in mind that salary is but one piece of the compensation package. We must also be aware of health-care premiums and retirement. We have to make a recommendation for FY11 this year in order to get it through the budget process and allow time for any improvements in infrastructure that is needed to be completed i.e., the performance evaluation process. As always, I welcome your input and guidance on this issue.

Staff Alliance met monthly over the summer. We held our retreat in August during which I accepted the position of vice chair of Staff Alliance. We meet with President Hamilton next week and our topics with him include staff compensation and the MacTaggert report recommendations. At our July meeting, a representative brought up concerns about UA's termination processes to include general counsel's involvement and the manner in which employees are treated. I echoed those concerns citing examples that I have been personally involved in or am aware of. This initial discussion was intended only to determine if it was an issue that was campus specific or should be discussed at staff alliance as a system-wide concern. At our August retreat, Kris Racina, director of Statewide labor relations, outlined the non-retention process and stated that given our concerns it was under review. Alliance then decided to go back to our governance groups and collect more input on the topic. It will be an agenda item for our meeting next week and I would like to hear your input during new business.

The HR Council has met twice over the summer. I serve on this council as a member of staff alliance. These are typically three-hour meetings that cover many different topics and the membership is discussion rather than voting. Things like clarification of the leave of absence regulation, the tuition waiver and educational leave benefit come before this council. Beth Behner reports regularly to staff alliance and if there are any items that I should bring back to council for discussion, I will. Following my statements at staff alliance regarding non-retention practices, I spent a good deal of time answering questions in this council from general counsel and labor relations. I felt the discussion to be very worthwhile in airing our concerns about how staff are treated in the non-retention process and hearing the reasons behind the process.

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